We live in an area of our county that has poor telephone service, poorer cell phone service, no high-speed Internet services other than very expensive and not so fast satellite providers, and no cable TV other than satellite. It’s kind of a communications technology sink-hole.
I’ve been able to improve the quality of our cell phone service by employing all I learned about Yagi beam antennas, preamplifiers, and amplifiers in forty years of amateur radio involvement. I have a Yagi high-gain beam antenna mounted 10′ above the crown of our house’s roof. The beam is mounted on a rotor so I can point it at the cell tower with the strongest signal and in line with the feed cable is a Wilson “signal booster.” The result is a final inside signal strong enough to provide for reliable cell phone calls.
We were recently in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, near the Virginia and Maryland borders. Driving along US 48 and other highways we were constantly presented with large numbers of wind turbines along the mountain ridges. Actually, we were kind of lost and didn’t expect this much wind energy generation in the mountains of what has always been “coal” country.
Amongst all these towers of turbines, we did come across one old fashioned, genuine, smoke-belching, coal-fired generating plant, the generating station at Mount Storm in Grant County, WV. Mount Storm actually consists of three generating plants that were built in the mid-’60s and early ’70s, and from day one were very controversial. The power company, Dominion Resources, failed to tell its employees and nearby residents that its smokestacks were polluting the air with toxic wastes such as asbestos. Lots of people were cursed with lung diseases, including mesothelioma before Dominion cleaned up its act.
Several weeks ago a fellow on Facebook was seeking input on what local high-speed Internet ISP services were available, he was still using telephone dial-up. Almost instantly my eyes bugged out and my ears rang with the memories of 56K squealing as they strained to make a connection to AOL (America Online) or some other provider.
Some of you may recall that at one time the only option we mortals had for home movies was an 8mm silent camera. Other than being the only option, the product sucked. All the neighborhood kids running round in blurry, grainy, flickering black and white globs of motion and dust.
Then came Super 8mm cameras and the quality became… I haven’t a clue. Other than costing more money I can’t say much more without Googling.
When I was a very young child a railroad conductor gave my dad a copy of his QSL card to give to me. This is a special postcard that contains all the personal information about a licensed amateur radio operator, better known as a ham. It has his name, address, and most importantly, his call sign.
From the moment dad gave me this man’s QSL I became interested in international communications. The idea of listening to and maybe talking with people around the world fascinated me. The easiest and cheapest way to get started was by making your own crystal radio set out of some telephone wire and an oatmeal tube. The next step was saving your paper route money and buying a shortwave receiver kit from Allied Electronics in Chicago.
Yesterday I did a little Googling about using drones to get up and over border walls and I didn’t have to dig too far to learn that the technology exists to inexpensively smuggle large amounts of drugs into America via an air force of drones.
Drones vary widely in both price and payload. A few thousand dollars on Amazon will buy one a drone capable of carrying a payload of 12 kg. At an average street price of $200 a gram in the US a 12 kg cargo could be valued at as much as $2.4 million. For several thousand more one could buy a drone with a cargo capacity of 660 pounds. You do the math and don’t forget such a drone may be able to smuggle a couple of people over a wall.
These days just about everyone has a cell phone and almost everyone who has a cell phone has a smartphone. I don’t know when you purchased your first cell phone but I got mine sometime in the mid to late 1980s and it was a “bag phone.” I don’t recall the brand but I had to drive to Dayton to purchase it and it worked on the Cingular network. I did a lot of weekend traveling back then and thought it would make things safer for me. While I never had to use it to get me out of trouble I did have occasions to call 911 for others.
The battery, antenna, and the phone were stored in a bag and to charge it you plugged it into your car’s cigarette plug. Not very portable but you could throw its strap over your shoulder and you were free…until the battery wore down.
COST OVERRUN: The Navy’s new Zumwalt destroyer cost $4.4 billion per ship. The ship’s gun, a long-range attack projectile was supposed to cost $50,000 per shell. For unexplained reasons the final coas rose to $800,000 per shell making them too expensive to fire. Oops!
My earliest memories of the Olympics is watching news film of Jessie Owens in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I wasn’t born yet but sometime in my youth I learned about Owens and saw those films.
From there my memories pretty much jump to 1960 and more news footage of Cassius Clay winning the gold metal at the Rome Olympics.
Over my life the Olympics have become bigger, controversial, more inclusive, and more grandiose. Staging a modern Olympics has put more than one nation at the edge of bankruptcy.
There have always been things about TV’s coverage of the Olympics that have bothered me. If you enjoy a more obscure sport you’ll probably not find much attention given to it. That is such in my case since I’m especially fond of bicycle track racing.
FACTOID: Only 3% of Americans still use dial-up for Internet access. Over 70% have access to broadband, much of that due to government spending during the Great Recession, while 15% don’t use the Internet at all. Overall, however, Internet speeds in America are among some of the developed world’s slowest.
I’ve written about this several times but once again I have to report that technology wise, life out here in Bad Fart, Ohio isn’t getting better. Internet speed remains dismal and given the ever-growing Amish-Mennonite community surrounding me, the future is grim.
We get Internet via Exede satellite and when all the stars are aligned we might see something north of 12 mbps, which is better than what we got with Hughesnet a couple of years ago. Typically we experience speeds closer to 5 mbps. However, according to Fortune Magazine the average American has seen an increase of 42% in download speed in the past year and now experiences typical speeds of 55 mbps.
While 55 mbps is blazing compared to what I get it pales in comparison to the 120 mbps speeds some Americans experience. I’ve never been connected to the Internet at anything faster than 20 mbps which makes our normal 5 mbps appear akin to downloading with semaphore flags or tin cans and tight strings.